Now in its fifth year, the RAF Northolt Nightshoot has developed into a firm favourite with aviation enthusiasts. Gordon Jones reports for Global Aviation Resource.
The event was conceived and is run by Philip Dawe, with support from volunteers and the station staff at RAF Northolt, in particular OC Ops. With proceeds generated from the event being used to fund the restoration of Building 26, which served as Sector Control Room when RAF Northolt was a fighter base during the Battle of Britain, the event is both unique and also supports a good cause.
After a flurry of nightshoots in its first year, the event has settled into a pattern of being held three times a year and Northolt Night Shoot XIV was the first for 2013. I was quite late in getting involved in these events so this was only my second event.
The French continue to lend their support to the event and this time provided both an Alpha Jet and a French Air Force Super Puma. The Super Puma had been forced to cancel ahead of the previous event, so it was good to see them make it this time. The Irish Air Corps returned again with their AW-139 and the Met Police Air Support Unit put in a short appearance before departing on a ‘shout’.
Continuing the emergency services theme was the London Air Ambulance which arrived during the event and was wheeled into position in the line-up. The locally based 32(TR) Squadron provided both a HS-125 and an A-109 for the line-up as well as a 146 which I will come to later.
The three star items of the event were the Sabreliner, BAE 146 QC and the Hurricane. The Swedish Sabreliner, from the Flight Test Centre was a fantastic addition, even if some were disappointed that it arrived without its two long antennas extending from the front of the aircraft. The antennas were removed due to the drag they create, which prevents the Sabreliner climbing past 20,000 feet. The trials aircraft only flies around 20 hours a year, so to attract it to the UK was a huge achievement.
The BAE 146 QC is one of two purchases from TNT to take some of the load of the Afghan air bridge away from Brize Norton. The QC designation denotes Quick Change, meaning it can be fitted to carry cargo or passengers or even a mix. Unlike the other 146s that 32(TR) operates, the QCs are painted in a gloss grey rather than the usual white scheme you associate with the squadron. The aircraft will spend a lot of its time in theatre so getting it on the line up before it enters service was great timing.
The Hurricane, Mk XIIc Z5140, from the Historical Aircraft Collection, was standing in for Spitfire Mk V BM597 which had been originally booked but was unable to attend due a coolant leak. The Hurricane was the first warbird to attend the event and since it is civilian owned there was a £3000 booking fee which translated to a £10 supplemental fee for each photographer attending. The Hurricane was the only aircraft to ground run on the night and attracted a lot of attention from the photographers when it did. I think most would agree it was money well spent.
The attendance at the event has grown considerably over the years and hit a new high this time round with 240 names on the list. Even with five planned aircraft being unable to attend, there was still enough to keep the people spread out. This was further helped by OC Ops allowing the event to use more of the hard standing. This all helped to make the event feel no busier to me than the previous one I attended.
This line up, and the Sabreliner in particular, will be a very hard act to follow but I’m sure Phil will be raiding his contact list to come up another great line up for Night Shoot XV.
I’d like to thank Philip Dawe, the volunteers, the station staff and OC Ops for all their hard work on this event. Thanks guys!